What is a Transition Town?


A Transition Initiative (which could be a town, village, university or island etc) is a community-led response to the pressures of climate change, fossil fuel depletion and increasingly, economic contraction.There are thousands of initiatives around the world starting their journey to answer this crucial question:

“how can we make our community stronger and happier as we deal withthe impacts of peak oil and economic contraction while at the same time urgently reducing CO2 emissions?”

Here’s how it all appears to be evolving…

It begins when a small group comes together with a shared concern: how can our community respond to the challenges and opportunities of peak oil, climate change and economic stagnation?They recognise that:

  • living with less energy – imperative because of climate change and inevitable because of fossil fuel depletion – is an opportunity if we plan for it, but a threat if we wait for it to happen to us
  • we were very clever and creative while using increasingly large amounts of energy and we’ll need to be just as clever and creative as we learn to live with decreasing levels
  • our communities currently lack the resilience to with stand some of the disruptions that’ll accompany climate change and unplanned energy descent
  • we have to work together and we have to work now, rather than waiting fo rthe government or “someone else”
  • this transition has to happen at an inner personal level as well as a community level
  • by unleashing the collective genius of the communities we live in, we can proactively design our own energy descent and build ways of living that are more connected, more enriching and that recognise the ecological limits of our biosphere

They begin by forming an initiating group and then adopt theTransition Model in order to engage a significant proportion of the people in their community to help find the answers to that BIG question :

“how can we make our community stronger and happier as we deal withthe impacts of peak oil and economic contraction while at the same time urgently reducing CO2 emissions?”

They then:

  • start awareness raising around peak oil, climate change and the need to undertake a community lead process to rebuild resilience and reduce carbon
  • connect with existing groups, including local government, in the community
  • form groups to look at all the key areas of life (food, energy, transport, health, heart & soul, economics & livelihoods, etc)
  • kick off practical projects aimed at building people’s understanding of resilience and carbon issues and community engagement
  • engage in a community-wide visioning process to identify the future we want for ourselves rather than waiting for someone else to create a future that we won’t like
  • eventually launch a community defined, community implemented “Energy Descent Action Plan” over a 15 to 20 year timescale

This co-ordinated initiative strives both to rebuild the resilience we’ve lost as a result of cheap oil and also to drastically reduce the community’s carbon emissions.

The different shapes of Transition

The transition model evolved in the UK, quickly moving to other english-speaking countries such as Australia, New Zealand and the US. We often wondered whether the model would be flexible enough for other cultures that face different challenges. It seems, from a couple of recent notes from Brazil, that it might be:

“In Brazil, climate change and peak oil aren’t issues with the same public appeal of that in Europe. Other Brazilians working with TT probably will also have other subjects of main concern, such as assuring education and health for all, protecting biodiversity and enhancing autonomy of traditional (indigenous or not) local communities.”

… and another:

“Just a brief message to say that we have enrichingTransition processes going on in Brazil right now. Some examples: in Sao Paulo,transition is happening in Granja Viana, Vila Mariana & Brasilandia;there is a strong group in Joao Pessoa and emerging initiatives in Salvador and Recife; Santa Teresa, Grajau in Rio. Petropolis; in your region there is also a small town Andrelandia starting the process. Most recently, after the big land slides, Teresopolis decided to use the principles in their reconstruction process. In two weeks time I’ll be running a TransitionTraining in Vicosa, organised by the Federal University, for which we have opened places for a group from Teresopolis.

We debate peak oil in the context of presal [Brazilian off-shore oil deposits] and as you know Brazil has also been hit by climate change.”

We’re working hard to ensure that the very broad range of groups experimenting with the transition model across the world are able to share successes and failures, adding strength and momentum to the whole movement.

The three phases (roughly)

The community self-organises to respond in three phases.

First, the small initiating group starts a programme of awareness raising and hooking up with existing groups.They articulate the rationale for adopting/adapting a transition approach and show the creative responses that the community might embark upon.

Second, as the group becomes larger, it self-organises in groups in all the key areas such as food, transport, energy, housing, education, textiles etc, and creates practical projects in response to that big question (such as community supported agriculture, car clubs, local currencies, neighbourhood carbon reduction clubs, urban orchards, reskilling classes). Most Transition Initiatives are in this phase.

Third, they begin to look at Energy Descent planning and the need to rebuild the local economic fabric by starting up local energy companies, social enterprises, complementary currency systems.There are a number of initiatives in this phase. Where it goes from here is a path as yet untrod.

Cheerful disclaimer!

Just in case you were under the impression that Transition is a process defined by people who have all the answers, you need to be aware of a key fact.

We truly don’t know if this will work.Transition is a social experiment on a massive scale.

What we are convinced of is this:

• if we wait for the governments, it’ll be too little, too late
• if we act as individuals, it’ll be too little
• but if we act as communities, it might just be enough, just in time.

Everything that you read on this site is the result of real work undertaken inthereal world with community engagement at its heart.There’s not an ivory tower in sight, no professors in musty oak-panelled studies churning out erudite papers, no slavish adherence to a model carved in stone.

This website, just like the transition model, is brought to you by people who are actively engaged in transition in a community. People who are learning by doing – and learning all the time. People who understand that we can’t sit back and wait for someone else to do the work. People like you, perhaps…

Transition Blandford: Check us out…